It has taken me all day to write this. I think part of that is due to frustration, part is because I wanted to think before I spoke, and part because I didn’t want to sound like a broken record. But maybe that’s what is needed.
Yesterday, a friend and colleague of mine ran for a national committee seat within our state party. She had good support, both from young members of the party and older members of the party. I was unable to be present, but everything I’ve heard is that her speech was excellent. She understands the diversity of our party and our country, and how we most often represent the people who don’t get represented often enough. She believed her election to the position would provide a new perspective and a distinct level of diversity in the national committee members. She is passionate about young people being the future of the party, and cares with every part of her about the future of this country. She is, to me and to many, the epitome of the future of Democratic politics.
And she lost.
What I find most frustrating about this is that I so often get asked why young people don’t get involved or stay involved, and this is a perfect example of why. When young people, who have worked very hard and held positions in the party for several years, are disenfranchised due to their age, no wonder they don’t want to stick around. I hear all the time “we want young people here,” but when given the opportunity to elect a person who is female and under the age of 35, the party failed to do so. It’s confusing, and a little disheartening.
There are some wonderfully supportive people in the party. There are people who support me and my colleagues on a regular basis, which I greatly appreciate. And I hope, if they’re reading this, that they know I’m appreciative of them. I’ve been challenged positively and supported by a great number of people in our local party.
But I’ve also had grudges held against me. I’ve had people tell me I’m ruining the party because I want us to make changes that will help move the party forward (but will make things look a little different). I’ve been bullied and have watched my friends and colleagues be bullied because we disagree or there is a misunderstanding. It’s not everyone, or all of the time, but it’s happened enough that I can no longer consider it an anomaly. And I don’t understand it.
Every young party member I know works extremely hard, both in their professional life and their personal or political life. Every young party member I know pushes through all the stereotypes laid on us as “millennials” (don’t even get me started on that word), and works to make the world better. Not just for us, but for people who come after us. And for the people who came before us, who might retire soon. We have dreams for this world, just like everyone before us has had.
Most of us work hard because we like to, and because our parents raised us to work hard. My generation was raised by two distinctly different types of parents – the tale end of the Baby Boomers, and a significant chunk of Generation X. Being raised by parents from such different generations can make us different, but one of our strongest similarities is our work ethic. And we want to know that, one day (even one day soon), that hard work will pay off. But right now what we often see is a deep disinterest in bringing young people in to the fold. And I can’t figure out where it comes from.
I’m thankful for the people who don’t feel that way. Who believe and understand that young people are the future of the party. I just wish we could find a way for more people to understand that. My friend and colleague should have been elected yesterday. Her age is not a detriment, it’s an asset, and should be treated as such.
I’ve watched too many organizations implode because they believe that you’ve only paid your dues if you’re over a certain age, and then people who are under that age don’t stick around. I don’t want that to happen to our party. My friends and colleagues and I were taught to respect people who have been around longer than us, and we do, but that starts to disappear when we aren’t treated with the same respect. I hope that continues to change. I hope we can be a better party, together.